The reasons we do the things we do are as myriad as the people who do them. The thing that is the same, though, is that we all do them. We all make decisions every day of our life. Some are simple, such as: which shoes will I wear? Green or Blue?, and so on. The majority of the choices we make in a day will have little to no real impact on our lives. These choices are often simply automatic, based on our preferences for the moment.
Then there are the big choices. I’ve heard people say they will just ‘let the fates decide’, or avoid making choices till it’s taken out of their hands. This in and of itself is a choice: I choose to do nothing, to wait, to hide my head in the sand…. Many things can drive these kinds of ‘non-choices’. Learned helplessness is one of the biggies. Maybe the person was second-guessed about every choice they made growing up. Maybe someone made all their choices for them and left them unable to make decisions. Maybe they just don’t want to face the consequences of their choices, and so will leave it to others so they can say, “It wasn’t my choice.” Basically, in Learned Helplessness, a person never learns to have personal empowerment: the realization that they do have choices, and that they have the right to make them.
Another reason people don’t make choices may be that they just don’t care one way or another. An example of this would be when the husband says, “Where would you like to go for dinner?” This is tricky, because the person being asked may really have a preference, but enjoy making the asker dig for it. In my case, I usually have places I prefer NOT to go, but among the approved choices, have no preference.
Now let’s get down to the meat of the matter. Why do we make bad choices? Sometimes its out of ignorance. In intelligent people, you find the phenomenon of learning from mistakes. Poor choices eventually lead to better choices, which lead to best choices. Some just weren’t blessed with that ability for some reason, and just keep on making the same mistakes over and over.
These are the people that fascinate me. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, and every time you go around that dog you get bitten again, wouldn’t you learn not to go around the dog? You would think so. Unfortunately, people can often get bogged down in decision making based on fears in their life, or the idea that if they keep doing it, eventually it will come right. I believe fear is at the root of most bad decisions. The fears are different in different people, but we all have them, and make many of our decisions based on avoidance: trying to avert whatever perceived catastrophe our future gazing predicts. In doing this, people often continue to make the same choices out of the same fears, not realizing that they are banging their head against the wall. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. Bad grammar, I know, but you get the picture.
Then there are the people who make bad choices because they don’t know any better. They’ve watched their parents, siblings, others choices and think that’s the way of the world, so they follow said example. There is hope for these people because they can be taught a better way. The best way would be to ‘train up a child in the way he should go’, but when that ship has already sailed, a person can still be trained either by him/herself or a counselor, a friend, a church or other support group.
The bottom line is that, regardless of your reasons (real or imagined, conscious or unconscious) if you touch something hot, you draw back. If your life is not what you want it to be, look back over your decisions. Are you going at the same thing in the same way and expecting something different? If you’re a really bad decision maker, find a friend to bounce all decisions off of until you become empowered to make wise choices. Fear is at the root of all our bad decisions, empowerment is at the helm of good choices: will this choice feed my fears, or will it empower me to have a better life, that is the question.